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What are Fingerplay Songs?

Mary Elizabeth
Updated May 23, 2024
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Fingerplay songs are children’s songs that are designed to be accompanied by hand movements that relate to the content. They are used both to entertain children, as well as to educate them. Children can enjoy the music and lyrics of the fingerplay songs, as well as the fun of learning the movements. At the same time they can learn hand-eye coordination, manual dexterity, rhythm, following directions, sequence, and memory, all while focused on the story.

Fingerplay Songs that Tell a Story
Fingerplay songs may tell stories. Some of the most popular fingerplay songs in the United States are probably “The Eensy-Weensy Spider”—which has several variant spellings including “Itsy Bitsy Spider”; “I Had a Little Turtle”; “This Little Piggy”; and “Where Is Thumbkin?” Each of these fingerplay songs has a story to tell: a day in the life of a spider and a turtle, the adventures of a family of pigs, and the a group of friends playing hide-and-seek.

Fingerplay Songs About Everyday Things and Counting
Other fingerplay songs repeat basic information about life, without telling a story. “The Wheels on the Bus,” “Here are Grandma’s Spectacles,” “Open, Shut Them,” “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” and “I’m a Little Teapot” are examples of this type of fingerplay song. Another set of fingerplay songs focuses on counting, helping children learn about numbers. This groups includes “This Old Man,” “There Were Ten in the Bed,” and “Five Little Chickadees.”

More Value of Fingerplay Songs
Fingerplays are also valuable for long car trips: they require little room and no equipment and can even be done in the dark. The sequence of movements provides a balance for the large motor movements that many singing games and dances, such as “Skip to My Lou,” “The Hokey Pokey,” “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush,” and “Ring Around the Rosie,” and circle games such as “Lucy Locket,” “A Tisket a Tasket,” “Farmer in the Dell,” “Hot Potato,” and “Duck Duck Goose!”

Musical Expert is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary Elizabeth
By Mary Elizabeth , Writer
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to writing articles on art, literature, and music for Musical Expert, Mary works as a teacher, composer, and author who has written books, study guides, and teaching materials. Mary has also created music composition content for Sibelius Software. She earned her B.A. from University of Chicago's writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont.

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Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth


Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the...
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